It does sound strange, of course: oak in a dessert. But it really is a delicious flavoring. You let the oak chips steep in the cream, giving it a light smoky, caramel-like flavor. Try for yourself; the sweet white chocolate can perfectly handle some smoke. And if you can’t find oak chips, or you feel like trying out something different, you can also use lapsang souchong or Earl Grey tea.
Make the white chocolate–oak cream: Put half of the cream and the wood chips in a saucepan over low heat and cook for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Strain the cream through a sieve and pour it back into the pan. Add the white chocolate chunks and let them slowly melt in the hot cream.
Allow the white chocolate–oak cream to cool to lukewarm. Stir occasionally.
Whip the remaining cream until stiff. Carefully fold in the white chocolate–oak cream and pour the mixture into pretty (mason) jars or small teacups.
Allow to firm up in the fridge for at least 4 hours. Remove them only when you’re about to serve dessert.
Make the smoky tea shortbread: Sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt into a mixing bowl and set aside.
Using a hand mixer, beat the butter together with the confectioners’ sugar until fluffy. It will take a good minute or three. Add the vanilla seeds and ground tea. Spoon in the flour mixture and stir until the dough just starts to come together, but no further. Kneading or stirring just briefly is the secret here; you want the cookies to remain crumbly after they’ve been baked. Roll the dough into a thick sausage and tightly wrap in plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rest in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
Cut the dough sausage into thin slices (say, ⅛ inch/3 mm) and use a metal spatula to place them, evenly spaced, on the lined baking sheet.
You can keep these cookies for a couple of weeks in an airtight container or jar. Of course you will serve them with your jars of mousse, and I can assure you there won’t be any left to store afterward.
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